Chapter CONTEXT from MHCC: Exhortation to brotherly love. (1,2) Cautions against several sins. (3-14) Directions to a contrary behavior, and to relative duties. (15-21) The duties of wives and husbands are enforced by the spiritual relationship between Christ and the church. (22-33)
Here in Jackson, MS, we had endured (supposedly it has ended) a few weeks of having to use bottled water to cook, drink, and even brush our teeth. Somehow, (I am always amazed how I get into these) this led to a conversation at the doctor’s the other day when someone mentioned drinking wine ILO water. Another person quickly chimed in quoting the above scripture claiming this verse prohibited the use of alcohol. This is a common debate in Christian circles even though I find the text here and elsewhere quite clear. As always CONTEXT is everything.
First some age-old arguments
- Clean water was not available 2000 years ago so everyone drank wine. – In some places, this was true but not everywhere Romans were famous for the Aquaduct (Clean water) systems.
- The “wine” 2000 years ago was nothing more than grape juice – Just as today there were different levels of fermentation for grapes.
- The Bible says drunkenness is wrong so alcohol is forbidden – If this was so then the Bible also says that the love of money (1 Tim 6:10) is the root of all evil so we should never use money? Again CONTEXT is everything.
More important to the conversation is the second part of our text for today. MHCC does well to separate the chapter at v.15-21. it is in the context of walking not in the path of the world but in the that led by the Holy Spirit that Paul (under the inspiration of the same Spirit) writes v.18. Note there is no requirement to abstain from alcohol use, ( would note a few things here 1) if you have a problem with alcohol use by all means abstain, second if you use would offend others, by all means, abstain) only that one should avoid being drunk or intoxicated. This really applies to anything that limits your ability to control yourself, to live a Godly Spirit-filled life Paul notes.
What is the meaning of this Spirit-filled Life? The Greek word translated here is Pleroo pronounced play-ro’-o. It has two basic meanings:
- to make full, to fill up, i.e. to fill to the full
- to render full, i.e. to complete
There are differences in these, first, is the Holy Spirit guiding or leading us down the path of righteousness (Sanctification). Next is the completeness that overcomes a believer as they grow in faith and the old is replaced by the new. The last use is the final or dominating Pleroo, which is not always positive. Jesus in speaking to His disciples says: But because I have said these things unto you, sorrow hath filled your heart, John 16:6
The lesson here for me at least, really has nothing to do with the question so often asked today, whether is alcohol permitted or not? The real answer that Paul is giving is, it is much wiser for anyone especially a True Believer, to be filled with the Eternal gifts and graces of the Holy Spirit than desiring to be filled with a worldly temporary thing like Alcohol. Is it permissible for a Christian to drink alcohol, I find no universal prohibition. Yet as noted earlier taking in the Whole Counsel of God we find circumstances where individual prohibitions would exist and certainly anytime it inhibits our personal testimony we should consider that a prohibition.